The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Embattled Commerce IG Todd Zinser steps down

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(This post has been updated.)

With pressure mounting on Capitol Hill for his removal, the controversial inspector general for the Commerce Department announced his resignation Wednesday night in an e-mail to staff.

With the subject line “News to share,” Todd Zinser wrote that he was retiring due to “important family business.”

“I have never been one for long goodbyes or a lot of fanfare but I do need to let you know that today I informed the President and the Secretary of my intent to retire effective at close of business today,” he wrote.

The Loop last week reported that Zinser’s office was once again at the center of controversy after new allegations surfaced that an employee was put on leave because she was believed to be a whistleblower. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the ranking Democrat on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, once again demanded Zinser be fired.

[New allegation of whistleblower retaliation at Commerce inspector general’s office]

Then Wednesday at a congressional hearing about inspector generals generally, Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, mentioned Zinser as what she described as a bad example. She cautioned that Zinser, who was appointed to the permanent post in the Bush II administration, is a case where it’s better to have a vacancy than a “permanent IG who has abused his position and undermined his office’s mission.”

She specifically noted that Zinser, in a previous high-level job at the Transportation Department’s IG office, had been found to have retaliated against a whistleblower, and never disclosed it when he was up for the Commerce post in 2007.

In his brief farewell e-mail, Zinser said his deputy, Morgan Kim, would step in as acting IG. He said he would eventually “be pursuing opportunities outside of government.” He attached a longer five-page letter detailing the agency’s accomplishments. He did not mention the recent controversies, though did write that the office had “significantly strengthened our own internal controls and business practices.”